Armenian Massacres (1915)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Ottoman government vs.
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Present-day southern Turkey
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: The suppression of
rebellion by the Armenians against the Ottoman Empire
OUTCOME: Armenian genocide
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
CASUALTIES: 500,000 Armenians were killed or
succumbed to disease and privation.
The worst of the three periods of Armenian massacre at
the hands of the Turks (see ARMENIAN MASSACRES [1894–
1897] and ARMENIAN MASSACRES ) came in 1915,
during WORLD WAR I. The Ottoman government, which
never had to look far for an excuse to persecute the Armenians
within its realm, determined that the Armenians of
eastern Anatolia presented an imminent risk of collaborating
with the Russians against Turkey, which was allied
with Germany. Summarily, the government ordered the
deportation of 1 million Armenians.
The process of rounding up the deportees was brutal.
During a three-day period, 24,000 were killed in and
around Van. At Bitlis 4,500 Armenians were ordered to dig
their own graves and then were shot. At Kemakh Gorge in
June 1915, as many as 10,000 Armenians were herded to
the edge of the gorge and pushed to their deaths. Of those
who were actually deported instead of summarily executed,
as many as 500,000 died of starvation, disease, and
deliberate mistreatment as they were marched to exile in
Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) and Syria.
Further reading: Vahakn N. Dadrian, The History of
the Armenian Genocide: Ethnic Conflict from the Balkans to
Anatolia to the Caucasus (New York: Berghahn Books,
1995); G. S. Graber, Caravans to Oblivion: The Armenian
Genocide, 1915 (New York: Wiley, 1996).